SF Apartment building

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Update, June 19th, 7:22PM: The Board of Supervisors voted today to postpone the vote on the ordinance until June 26th.

Today there is an ordinance [Board File №180423] up at the Board of Supervisors that would make an appreciable difference in the approval and construction of badly needed 100% below market rate housing. Yet, this proposal is not getting nearly the attention it deserves.

Low income affordable housing is very hard to finance and get built. Non-profit developers like TNDC, CCDC, MEDA, Mission Housing, BRIDGE Housing and Mercy Housing all have to cobble together funding sources from the federal ones like LIHTC (Low income housing tax credits) and the HOME program, as well as other local and state sources of funds. Almost all of these sources generally have timing considerations. Any delay in approval and construction start dates typically puts these badly needed projects at risk or at the very least complicates their financing options.

All that piecemeal funding is dependent on getting your permits. Even if you raise all the tax money in the world, it won’t make a difference at all if the process to get this badly needed housing built is an uncertain one full of pitfalls, ambiguity, and arbitrary process that makes a mockery of the notion that we’re treating the housing crisis like the crisis that it is. As a city, we need to decide affordable housing is something we want in every neighborhood. But the current process allows for too much abuse by those who want stop or scale back the affordable housing we already have funding for.

Look to this article about the proposal to build BMR housing at the shuttered Stanyan McDonalds in District 5, noting it might take five years (or more with a CEQA lawsuit) to get this badly needed housing built. That is simply unacceptable.

Some districts are more effective than others at keeping affordable housing out. From the pipeline tool provided by MOHCD, my own District 1, the Richmond District:

Pipeline Rool

0 affordable homes to be built within the Richmond in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and so on.

My neighborhood is not pulling its fair share of the weight when it comes to building new housing of any kind. That goes DOUBLE for the subsidized affordable housing that is most badly needed by those residents that earn well below the Area Median Income, which is now almost $83,000 a year

Frankly, it’s embarrassing that there is practically zero pipeline for new BMR housing in our neighborhood for the foreseeable future. That’s not something we should accept.

San Francisco needs this ordinance badly. I haven’t even gotten around to mentioning the other two key parts of this ordinance that are badly needed concerning the standardizing of neighborhood notifications to make them more consistent (and apply to tenants and folks who speak languages aside from English) and the streamlining of certain small changes to historic buildings, but suffice it to say, we need this ordinance.

We need to make it easier to build non-profit affordable housing. When we put barriers in front of affordable housing, when we make permitting difficult and unpredictable, we make it take longer to build this badly needed housing. When permitting is unpredictable, funding pulls back and we lose units. We need to move more quickly on all housing full stop.

San Francisco cannot wait years for these and other reforms to get more housing built. We need much more legislation just like this to get the housing we need permitted faster and in every neighborhood.

If you want to read even more about this legislation, check out this letter from YIMBY Action. Then, be sure to send a quick email to your San Francisco Supervisor to urge them to support this ordinance.

Bobak Esfandiari is a volunteer with Grow The Richmond, a neighborhood club of YIMBY Action. You can follow him on Twitter at @Bobakkabob37. This article was originally published on Medium.

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